Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Artist of the Week

Lacey Pipher

This is the story of the night I almost bypassed discovery. What I knew was that I was attending an open studio show for Lucas Myers. I knew that there would be other artist involved, but other then that I was pretty clueless. Driving up to the studio (excepting a storefront, and finding a warehouse), I was leery of the neighborhood but ready for discovery. As I entered, I was greeted by a pleasant table of appetizer, and a diverse crowd of people. Expecting paintings I gravitated towards the white walls in the center of the room with the paintings hung in a traditional way. On my way, I glance to the left and notice what looks like the workspace of a guitar maker, and I plan to take a look later. I proceed to enjoy a night of art, music, and traffic cones, and on my way out I stop to look at the guitars. I've always wished I could play, and to see the detail and tools that go into creating these instruments was very interesting. I get to the last guitar and I turn around, there dangling in front of me, almost starring at me with an eyeless gaze, is this constructed creature. I take it in as whole as first, puzzled and intrigued, but then I notice that is has very familiar parts. Feathers from a duster, strips of pages cut from books, incredible pieces of metal, string and fabric all coming together to form this creature.

I come to find out that I had stumbled upon the studio of Chicago artist, Lacey Pipher. Lacey is a sculptor, painter, and all around creative person from New Jersey, who has installed pieces across the city in recent years. That night, she had displayed a series of creatures, among other wonderful piece, that incorporate many found object that are utilized to create something new. Thought provoking and passionately unique, Lacey's work challenges both the artist and the viewer to reconsider the purpose of the material and life in general. Overjoyed with what I had seen, I write my name and e-mail address on her creatively made guest list and exit the warehouse already contemplating question to ask her.

Recently, Lacey was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): To simply say sculpture doesn't seem to do you work justice, how do you describe your work?
Lacey Pipher (LP): Some of the pieces that are suspended and working with the architecture are more like environments, and the smaller pedestal pieces are very much objects: tools or creatures.

But I would just call it sculpture and let the viewer write the rest.

OA: Many of your newer, smaller pieces seem to focus on found objects. Where do you find your material for the pieces?
LP: I am on a constant and ongoing search for materials-found or other. This is a huge part of the process, as it is one of the things that integrate art and life. The objects in these particular pieces were found in the woods, in alleys or in the road, near the tracks, outside factories that work with metal, in thrift and surplus stores, and some have been given to me with the intent that I could use them to make art.

OA: Many of your pieces also incorporate a lot cuttings from various books. As a writer seeing the words incorporated made me want to read them to find meaning. Are the pages and clippings purely aesthetic or is there is a deeper interpretation? What types of books are you using?
LP: An ongoing goal for me with my work is to draw the viewer in, raise curiosity, and make a person want to explore. I think that the books work toward this goal in many ways. Their texture and organic mass makes them very tactile. Their book-like quality creates a certain presence and character. It also prompts one to look closer to, as you said, “find meaning”.
I am working with a few different books right now-One on animal tracks, one about the history of communication and one called “War”. I also like to use dictionary definitions, maps, dress patterns, and other less recognizable things.

OA: Can you talk a little about your process? Do you have an idea of where the piece will go before you begin the process?
LP: I keep interesting materials around and experiment with them. I play around very freely, and then I sit back and write about what I am trying to do and how to project that more clearly. Then I play more, deliberately pushing the aspects that I feel are working and pulling back on those that are not. Often, just this free process leads to finished works. Sometimes there are less spontaneous revisions made to make a piece feel more complete like replacing strings with cables or tape with hardware.

OA: Your studio is inhabited by seven other artists. In what ways have you benefited from having such talent all around?
LP: I feel very lucky to be around other people who are so active in the creative process and really pushing it as artists. It is good support and fun. There’s always coffee on, music shared, and the opportunity to talk about our work. Also, the ‘found wood’ is great when you have a guitar builder around!

OA: What's next for Lacey Pipher?
LP: Working in the stude all winter…
Show at Flatfile (217 N Carpenter, Chicago) in January…
Probably take a trip this spring…

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
LP: Yes please, light and sweet. If yes what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot? Usually get ‘motor oil’ beans at Atomix(Chicago and Damen) and make it at my place.

OA: Do you ever listen to music while you are creating? Who are some of your favorites while working and in general?
LP: Music is essential. Favorites right now include Broken Social Scene, Can, Built To Spill, Joni Mitchell,The Stone Roses, The Smiths, Singleman Affair, Califone…to name a few...

For more information on Lacey Pipher please visit her website. You can also e-mail her if you are interested in stopping by the studio at 2030 W. Hubbard in Chicago.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

New Release Tuesday

Buck 65 - Situation Listen to: Shutter Buggin' (mp3)
Puscifer - V Is For Vagina Listen to: Queen B (mp3)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Monday Morning Mix

I've put together a complilation featuring the last 22 weeks worth of "Band of the Week" artists. It begins with the interview I conducted with the lovely Kathryn Bint (aka One Little Plane) and wraps up with this past weeks band, Hot Springs. It is available for download here, and I hope everyone finds as much enjoyment listening back through this mix as I had picking the bands and conducting the interviews. Thanks for reading and listening!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Orange Alert Music Minute

My Dearest Friends and Fans,

It is my greatest honor to present to you The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!, my new album produced by Trent Reznor and mixed by Alan Moulder. The wall of sound that we've created is tagged with such graffiti that a passerby would seek out doors and ways to ENTER. Once inside a world defined by dreams come true they'd find aligned with the simplest act of sharing what we treasure. Most people aren't aware of the world of art and commerce where exploitation strips each artist down to nigger. Each label, like apartheid, multiplies us by our divide and whips us 'til we conform to lesser figures. What falls between the cracks is a pile of records stacked to the heights of talents hidden from the sun. Yet the energy they put into popularizing smut makes a star of a shiny polished gun. The ballot or the bullet for Mohawk or the mullet is a choice between new times and dying days. And the only way to choose is to jump ship from old truths and trust dolphins as we swim through changing ways. The ways of middlemen proves to be just a passing trend. We need no priests to talk to God. No phone to call her. And when you click the link below, i think it fair that you should know that your purchase will make middlemen much poorer...



To preorder the new album from Saul Williams go here. He is asking for $5, if you wish "to directly support the artists involved in the creation of this music", but there is also an option to download it for free. The album will be available to download on November 1st.

Austin, TX Indie pop band Masonic is releasing their 4th LP on November 20, 2007. Since 2002, Masonic has been creating well crafted noise pop along the lines of Stereolab, Yo La Tengo, and The Vaselines framed by pre-murder Phil Spector influenced production.

Armed with vintage keyboards and guitars, a vinyl collection, and some tape loops, Masonic recorded this album during the spring and summer of 2007 only one year after 2006's Without Warning, which was named one of 2006's Austin Top 10 release by the influential Austin Chronicle. 2003's Too Far. Too Fast. Too Soon. was also named one of Austin's Top 10 releases by the same paper in 2003.

Things I Am Guilty Of is a well crafted indie pop gem that I was lucky enough to receive via e-mail this past week. If you go their website you can stream the entire album. Don't pass on this one, I was pleasantly surprised.

Listen to: Under the Radar (mp3)

It really wouldn't be Halloween without a quality mashup album to accompany the festivities. One of my favorites (yes their are multiple albums) this year is "Mashing Pumpkins: Halloween 2007" complied by Cheekyboy and currently being hosted by Mashuptown. Featuring the work of Mr. Fab, Fettdog, and Cheekyboy himself amoung other, this album is fun, festive, and free. Check it out!

In celebration of their upcoming US tour with Band of Horses, (dates below) Australian band The Drones will be the first band to kick off ATP Recordings' new series of double 7" vinyl called Custom Made. Custom Made invites artists to submit 4 songs which will be released on limited edition 7" and also made available as a digital download.

For each Custom Made 7" the bands choose: something old (an old song), something new (a song from their latest album), something borrowed (a cover) and something blue (a blues song, the word blue in the title, anything...)

The vinyl is limited to just 1,000 pieces, and 100 of them will be special edition silk screened printed covers, numbered and signed by the sleeve designer.

The Drones: Custom Made will be out on November 5th and will include the following tracks:

Side A. Something Old - "Cockeyed Lowlife of the Highlands" (New recording of this old song) Side B. Something New - "I Don't Ever Want to Change" (taken from the album Gala Mill)
Side C. Something Borrowed - "I Drink" (originally by Charles Aznavour)
Side D. Something Blue - "Shark Fin Blues" (mp3) (taken from the album Wait Long By the River.)

The Drones will be in Chicago at the Metro on November 11th and 12th. For additional dates go here.

The Peel Back: Black 47 "Fire of Freedom" (1993)

Taking their name from the worst year of the Ireland's Great potato famine, Black 47 is an ultra hard core political group of Irishmen based in New York. They focus on stories on Irish American culture and revolutionary Irish figures. In 1993, they released their debut album Fire of Freedom, and my local radio station started playing "Funky Ceili (Bridies Song)". I suppose I didn't listen closely enough, but I don't remember thinking is song was overly political. I simply loved the fiddle and dancing the jig!

Fire of Freedom

Livin' In America (Fordham Road 8:00 AM)/Maria's Wedding/Rockin' The Bronx (mp3)/Fanatic Heart/Funky Ceili (Bridie's Song) (mp3)/Fire Of Freedom/James Connolly/Livin' In America (Bainbridge Avenue 2:00 AM)/Banks) Of The Hudson/40 Shades Of Blue (mp3)/New York, NY 10009/Sleep Tight In New York City / Her Dear Old Donegal/Black 47/Livin' In America

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Watch List

1. Realistic - Brooklyn's James Towning (a.k.a Realistic) is a masterful sampler, and a cure for your Perpetual Memory Loss. He is continuously mixing little pieces of life and song that you had thought lost and forgotten. Perpetual Memory Loss (released 10/23/07) is Realistic third full length album, but you can download his Photorealistic EP (released 10/8/07) here for free. Listen to: Interrupted Panting State (mp3) and Snowday Plaything (mp3)
2. Heloise & the Savior Faire - New York's electro-rock outfit Heloise & the Savior Faire are gearing up to release their new album Trash, Rats and Microphones this spring. Encapsulating all 80's pop fetishes, the band is fronted by the charismatic Heloise Williams and backed by two electrifying dancers (Joe Shepard and Sara Sweet Rabidoux) as well as a full band (James Bellizia on guitar, Luke Hughett on drums and Jason Diamond on bass). Download their Odyle Ep here for free.
3. To Bad Catholics - Currently on tour with Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, these Vancouver residents bring the lazy, slightly off-beat folk music to masses. Their latest album "Mallorytown" is finished and will be available at all of their concerts. They will be at The Hideout here in Chicago with CFTPA of 11/12.

1. "The Torturer's Apprentice" and other poems by Kristy Bowen - Over the last week, I had been thinking to myself about my lack of appreciation for the Chicago poet. Maybe it was more lack of awareness, but regardless I felt I had been missing something. The problem was I had no idea what or who I had been missing. Then I found the work of Kristy Bowen, and all of her various creative outlets. She alone has restored my faith in the Chicago poet.
2. "SLIP" by Charles Blackstone - A story about a single moment of verbal indiscretion and the drama that follows. This story left me want more, so I went and read more of his work, and then I contacted him. Watch for his interview this Thursday.
3. "The Large Minnow" by Ellen Kennedy and Tao Lin - A heart-warming story about a 35 ton minnow.
4. "Metalhead" by Michael Lars - This one is for all the heavy metal fans out there. (Yes, that's you Jason.)
5. "If We Only Lived in Manhattan" by Nick Ostdick - Worried, at first, about a Chicago writer wanting to live in Manhattan, but once you read this compelling tale of a young man's day spent with his father's ex, you will understand the title.

1. Next Exit: Five by Christopher Cunningham - Released just a week ago, and selling like nobodies business. Get your copy today before they are gone by sending $4 to Bill Shute
8200 Pat Booker Rd. #399, San Antonio, Texas 78233
2. The GPP Reader - A beast of a compilation, perfect bound, slick glossy cover with a letterpress dust-jacket title band, 144 pages, edited by Ed Kauffman--LIMITED TO 200 COPIES! 29 copies left, get it before it is history. $15
3. Words for Songs Never Written by William Taylor Jr. - Are you brave enough to believe? $13.95

1. "Electrosyzin" by Shakeyface - This is a free 52 minute mix from one of my favorite DJ's/producers, Shakeyface.
2. Five to Nine Issue #6 - Taking a look at the everyday, Sing Us A Song (Five to Nine's sixth issue) brings together a diverse group of designers & artists together and explores what happens when letters are combined and form those things we call words. Get it here for free!

1. "Roots on Sidewalks" by Inlets - The latest installment of La Blogotheque features Sebastian Krueger (a.k.a. Inlets), who also plays guitar from My Brightest Diamond. Inlets beautiful ep Vestibule can still be downloaded for free from Luv Sounds.
2. "A day in the life with Lucky Man author Ben Tanzer" - Many people have asked Lucky Man author and TBWCYL, Inc. (formerly Lucky Man, Inc.) spokesperson Ben Tanzer what its like to be the author of an obscure novel that few people have read. Here is his answer in the form a travelogue to a recent reading. See if you can spot the reference to the Office.
3. Chicago Artist Coalition Paint-a-Thon took place back in June, and here are four 9 minute videos worth of interviews. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part4) Part 3 features Orange Alert friend, Kim Frieders!

Saturday Morning Cartoon

This morning while you enjoy a bowl of Frankenberry Cereal, please watch this fantastic new video from Efterklang. The song is one of my current favorites, and the imagines created for this video are completely amazing. It was animated by Nan Na Hvass and Jens Christian Høgni Larsen.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Band of the Week

Photo by Aaron Seligman

Hot Springs

Mental sanity seems to be in high demand lately. Everyone wants it, but no one can quite define it. Whether there is a pulsing pressure or an intense swirling of thoughts and ideas, the action required may be the same. What our artist of the week, Lawrence Yang, termed "creating order out chaos", Giselle Webber of Montreal’s Hot Springs defines as pushing out of the fire to create calm. However, both recognize the need to allow the deepest fires to surface just before they are thrusted upon the canvas or audience. It is an eruption from a boiling spring spraying mists of creativity and passion in all directions. For Giselle Webber, this eruption typically occurs on stage where she allows the music to take over and completly explodes with energy.

Volcano, is Hot Springs first full length album and it is pack full of Giselle's energy, emotion, and most impotantly fire. Still looking for distribution in the US, Giselle recently took some time while preparing for last week's CMJ Music Festival to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): I love the name Hot Springs, how did the band come to call themselves such an organic and metaphoric name?
Giselle Webber (GW): everything about hot springs is designed to retain some semblance of mental sanity - push out the fire and then you have calm. there was so very much bubbling inside of me at the time when i started the band, and since i was no longer breaking boards with my feet in martial arts training, and since i was no longer playing in punk bands.. there was very much molten lava in my tummy. so it had to come out... and boy did it ever.

OA: Much has been said about your live performances, with the current state of record sales how important is it that bands have a positive reputation when it comes to their live performances? What is your mindset while on stage?
GW: at first i wasn't very proud of the way the band sounded. the songs were written in haste. we weren't yet grown-ups artistically.. and the only thing i figured we could get good at, while we were waiting for the songs to improve.. was the look of the thing: the visual. so people got so excited about all of my rock moves, they forgot to notice that the songs were complete shit. now i quite like the songs.. so it's lovely to have both of the bases covered. onstage, one thing is incredibly crucial to me, and that is sincerity. it is tough, when people tell of us in interviews, of how much explosions will happen onstage.. and you come to a moment when you don't feel explodey at all.. because of a shit crowd or a shit place or a shit time or what have you. so what do you do then? you stay true to it.. and the endorphins come naturally - and i don't force it. and i think people can tell when a band is being transparent and posing. it's a wretched embarrassment to watch. so the most important thing is never to pose. just to be openly crazy. i get it all out as best i can.. and afterwards i can function like a proper lady again.

OA: In a recent interview you discussed the steps a women might need to take to gain respect in the various music scene and shops. Do you feel this is a Canadian phenomenon or is more widespread? Since the powerful female lead singer is a rare commodity, I thought she would be cherished and not forced to change.
GW: women are cherished as sexual creatures. also they are cherished as mothers. so the fellows around me.. well - they do their best to tuck me into one of those boxes. and i have to do my best to smash out of those boxes. i'm quite good at smashing out of boxes, to tell you the truth. it's a little hobby of mine. so us powerful female lead singer types have to get real good at smashing stuff. we don't need to work on sexy things or anything else like that, because the rest of the world paints us as nothing *but* sexy. you just need to scare the living daylights out of some of them. really shake them up a little. that is our struggle. it's also one of the funnest challenges a girl could ever have.

OA: Your lyrics touch on several different topics from the war in Iraq to the action that can be found while wearing an Elvis wig, but a common theme seems to be the environment. How prominent are your environmental concerns on this album? What are some of your major concerns when it comes to the environment?
GW: one thing this life has taught me is that a true connection from one human being to another is about as rare as rare can get. i have some friends that use a whole whack of drugs to simulate that kind of connection. others lie in bed alone watching documentaries about metaphysics. it is the curse of the modern era, how we are allowed to be alone.. and live and breathe and function. back in the day.. we felt grateful in the presence of others. more so than now, anyhow. so i grew up, very much a loner.. on a mountaintop in british columbia. and spent my summers on a very large houseboat my grandpa built. and all of my nostalgia and all of my connections were inherently linked to parcels of land, and parcels of water. when it came time to get mushy and romantic and write actual words for the music (instead of that nonsense language i tend to sing while writing the stuff), i found it easier to write about animistical sort of things than writing about people-stuff. i am as heartsick for the pacific as i would be for some dumb fuck i used to go out with. plus i am pagan as pagan can be.. so much of that is almost religious writing. but politically.. let's just say i eat a lot of groceries from the dumpster. and i turn the lights off all over the bloody place. and i'd never ever ride in a tourbus. even though you can bring a portable record player and the record won't skip. right now i am most concerned with my consumption patterns. eating groceries like in the old days. none of these tractor trailer fruits. even though i do very much love to gawk at the mack trucks on the highway. i think they're kind of beautiful.

OA: Who are some of your primary musical influences?
GW: black mountain, zoobombs, the stooges, silver apples, crass, aids wolf, socalled, cream, black sabbath, louis armstrong's early trumpet recordings, cpc gangbangs, etta james, de la soul, minor threat.

OA: What's next for Hot Springs (might we see an American distribution for the album)?
GW: well we're off to CMJ for this week.. and our lawyer is an american. so i bet he'll have a couple industry fellows at the gig. maybe they will buy me glasses of something electric, like the kind of bourbon you can only get in kentucky.

Bonus Questions:
OA: You are being included in the "Second Wave" of the Montreal music explosion. How would you describe the current music scene in Montreal?
GW: everyone that has already achieved some level of success in one band is branching off and creating splinter cells of side-projects all over the bloody place. we are all getting very arty and weird. one pal of mine has built about 30 robots that work on remote control, and they play the music for him. stuff like that.

OA: What was the last great book that you read?
GW: huckleberry finn.

Headrush(mp3)/Cellophane/Fog and the Horn/Tiny Islands/Fantôme Dinosaure/Pink Money/Annimystique/Gotta DJ/Hairy and Airee/38th Adventure

For more information on Hot Springs please visit their website.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Writer's Corner

Jim Benz

"Dead Poets and Billy Collins"

Why isn't poetry more marketable? Contained inside these thin little chapbooks, we die hard lit nerds like to collect, is just as much passion and energy and humor as that of the novel. Yet when you walk into a suburban bookstore you have trouble even locating the poetry section. Once you locate the shelf and a half you half to brush off the dust and look long and hard through the stacks for something published in that last fifty years. The internet has helped those who are seeking, but the casual reader is missing a gripping world of verse that will continue to go unnoticed unless we start screaming. Why isn't Karl Koweski, Christopher Cunningham, or Amy King on shelves at Borders? Why does a wonderful poet like Minnesota's Jim Benz hold enough poetry to fill three or more collections, but still question the marketability and not pursue it further. Why?

Jim Benz, is a poet and recently returning student from Minnesota. His words have appeared in many publications, but most recently in this months Word Riot and the latest issue of Calliope Nerve. You can also find a good sampling of his diverse work here.

Recently, Jim took some time away from his studies to answer a few of our questions.

Orange Alert (OA): I have seen you referenced as the "Unemployed poet from Minnesota". Does this sum up Jim Benz or is there a more fitting description?
Jim Benz (JB): The description fits. Is there more? Sure, but I hate writing bios or talking about myself. I'd rather talk about my wife (who works hard to support us) or our grown son. So what can I say? I'm 47 years old and willfully unemployed. I used to be a machine operator in a factory, and then (after a number of work-related injuries) became a clerical worker in the same factory. Since the plant closed, I've worked almost exclusively on poetry. I don't question whether that's a worthwhile endeavor or not, but I am self-conscious about not having a job. In other words, I'm not doing what 47 year old men are supposed to be doing. I wish I could be cavalier about it, but I'm not. Apparently, deep down, I bought the lie about what good citizens do for a living, and since this is not a society that looks favorably on marginal poets, I get a little uncomfortable. But it's what I do, so ultimately I have to say "screw it" and just keep writing.

OA: In "When the poet read Bukowski by the fallen Bridge", you seem to express an reverence for Buk's work. In your opinion, why is Bukowski such a major influence for so many of today's poets? Who are some of your other literary influences?
JB: Bukowski was his own man and his own writer. He didn't mimic anyone else or conform to some particular "school" of poetry. He wrote prolifically and he wrote well. I think some poets are influenced by him because they see themselves in the same boat. Also, Bukowski was good at taking mainstream culture to task from an outside perspective, from a bar stool or a crummy job. He's a strong voice from the underclass and he achieved that without all the "credentials" of education or mainstream connections. There's probably other reasons. Some poets might get off on depictions of his hard-drinking lifestyle or the way he tells all the establishment assholes to fuck off. Or maybe its just because he's funny as hell, in a cool way. I like Bukowski, but frankly I haven't read that much of his stuff.

My own influences vary quite a bit. George Oppen influenced this particular poem far more than Bukowski. Others are James Tate, Denise Levertov, Paul Celan, Berryman's dream songs, or haiku by Basho, Buson and Issa. My earliest influences were probably Williams, Rexroth, Ferlinghetti, Whitman, Eliot and Ginsberg. Where does it stop? I don't want it to stop. There's a great book of Russian poets (translated by Paul Schmidt) called The Stray Dog Cabaret. My wife gave it to me. Best book I've read in ages. Also, I was just introduced to the poetry of Czeslaw Milosz and it's incredible.

OA: I really enjoy your poem, "New Years Morning, 2006", what is the connection between the different figures or "celebrities" in the poem? Is it more a poem about loneliness?
JB: They're all 20th century figures that in some way (at least marginally) have some kind of resonance in this culture - actors, writers, political figures, tv personalities. I threw in Boccioni because I wanted a representative of the futurists, preferably a painter. As for what the poem's about, I don't know. It was one of those poems that largely write themselves - meaning I didn't have to think about it much or look for meanings to develop. In other words, I got a superficial idea and it worked right away with almost no effort. Is it about loneliness? I think the poem supports that notion pretty well. On the surface, it's about a terrific hangover. What's more lonely than that? But seriously, I know what you mean and I think that's a very insightful reading.

OA: You reference Jazz music in a few of your poems, and there seems to be a long standing relationship between Jazz and Poetry. What is you impression of this relationship?
JB: That's a surprisingly difficult question to answer because I want to get into all kinds of technical things (syncopation, rhythm, time signatures, etc) but I don't have the vocabulary or knowledge to do so. I think there's a lot of mainstream poetry which has no connection to jazz, but Beat poetry is practically swimming in it. I don't know. Both poetry and jazz are hugely creative and able to go off in strange, interesting directions. I'm thinking of bop and cool jazz, or stuff like Ornette Coleman. So I guess, if I limit this to Beat poets (like Kerouac in "Mexico City Blues") and Jazz artists like Coltrane, I'd say both manage to convey a deep non-verbal impression of what life in the 20th century western world feels like, and they express it in incredible ways. I know that sounds kind of lame, but it's what I get out of it. I suppose the lifestyles mesh somewhat, they co-existed in the same era, probably influenced one another, and both have strained relationships with the status-quo in their given fields. Like Bukowski, this sort of stuff thrives outside the gates of what's supposed to be good and proper. They break rules, but not just for the sake of breaking them - they're on to something. You feel like important work is going on, but the mainstream world turns its back and scoffs. At least to a degree.

OA: Do you have any chapbooks or compilations available or in the works? What is your opinion of the current marketability of the chapbook in general?
JB: I have enough material for 2 or 3 chapbooks, but my writing style is all over the map so its tough to put together. I recently organized 50 poems in a book-length progression that seems to work okay, so I might try to shop that around, but I don't know how much energy I have. Writing is one thing but trying to "market" the stuff is a whole different ballgame. So yeah, I have a compilation in the works. I just need to get off my lazy ass and try to get it published. As for the marketability of chapbooks, I don't know. I buy plenty of them, but I've never tried to sell one. I think it's like the marketability of poetry itself - limited. If you go into a chain book store, what do you see for poetry? Dead poets and Billy Collins. That's an exageration, but not much of one. The mainstrean publishing world, with established markets, doesn't seem to be interested in new poetry as it happens. Or, they prefer safe poetry that doesn't call established ideologies into question. Again, that's an exageration but not much of one. Or maybe I'm showing my own biases. I don't know. As for chapbooks, I think they're cool. I like what I get from Scott Pierce at Effing Press. Sometimes I pick one up at an open mic. They're almost always interesting. I wish there was a bigger market for this stuff, but I don't really know that much about how you'd make it happen. I'm just thankful there's an independant press that nurtures what market there is, no matter how small. The big corporate press, with all its resources, just doesn't seem to be interested in much outside of their own very narrow scope of what's acceptable. That might apply to the university press too.

OA: What's next for Jim Benz?
JB: I just went back to college, so mid-terms are next. Right now, I'm trying to finish my education (after a 23 year break) and see what it does for my writing. Unfortunately, it doesn't leave me much time to actually write.

Bonus Questions:
OA: I believe you are a coffee drinker, mainly because of your recent poem about coffee. What is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
JB: Peace Coffee, French Roast. It's roasted locally and we get it at the co-op. There's a bunch of coffee houses in my neighborhood, but I probably go to the Auduban Cafe (in northeast Minneapolis) more than any others. Just this morning, though, I was at two different coffee houses in Dinkytown, near the University of Minnesota campus. I like them too.

OA: When did you first know that you wanted to be a poet?
JB: When I was around 15. I worked hard at it for about 10 years and then abruptly quit - I was more interested in spending my energy on being a husband and a father. When my son was a junior in highschool, I started writing again. Now I can't stop. Sometimes I wish I could, though, because it's frustrating work and the pay is lousy.

For more information on Jim Benz visit his page at

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Artist of The Week

Lawrence Yang

The concept that the mind at times is chaotic can be difficult to admit to or understand. Many people like to feel as though they control their thoughts and actions, but in reality the mind ultimately decides what we create and when. Simple tasks are easy to control, but stand in front of a blank canvas or stare at an empty word document and that control shifts. Your minds races, or possibly stands completely still. It is this randomness or chaos that the artist must rein in and transfer to the canvas, or as Chicago native and San Francisco resident Lawrence Yang puts it, "creating order out of chaos".

Lawrence Yang is relatively new to the scene, but has already created many beautiful pieces. He has participated in two exhibits and is a special contributor with the Robots and Monsters charitable Menagerie. His work combines themes from both Asian culture and graffiti art, and the results are incredible.
Recently, Lawrence took some time out to answer a few of our questions.

Orange Alert (OA): How did your time in Chicago affect you as artist? What were you able to take away from your time there?
Lawrence Yang (LY): I was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago -- not really the most inspirational of places for an artist. But that in itself was a mixed blessing, as it gave me more time inside my head to come up with crazy ideas and things to try out. I would say that the midwest is where I laid the foundation for my style, but most of my artistic growth happened once I moved here to San Francisco.

OA: You define your style as containing "graffiti and Asian influences". How did these two typically separate genres come together as your influences? When you say your artwork is "concerned with creating order out of chaos" does graffiti represent the chaos?
LY: The Asian influences come directly from my heritage -- I have gone back to Taiwan and China every year or every other year all my life, and the exposure to Chinese culture has definitely influenced my artwork. The graffiti influence comes out of my own interest in the urban art scene -- I don't tag myself, but one can't walk around the city (whether it's Chicago or San Francisco) without being exposed to it. Taken together, one finds certain overlaps in the two styles, and when spun a certain way, they don't seem that different at all. "Creating order out of chaos" refers more to my state of mind while I am creating art -- sometimes it feels like I'm sweeping my skull out and figuring out what patterns can be created with the resulting mess.

OA: I have come to notice a few reoccurring colors (pink, purple, mint green) in your work. Do you work with a set color palette?
LY: Hmm. . . I don't usually come to a piece with a set color in mind -- but I would say there are colors that i gravitate towards. Again, it mostly has to do with my mood and the idea I have.

OA: The cover of Departure looks great, how did you choose which pieces would be included the finished product?
LY: The pieces I included in Departure are predominantly the ones I include in my "zen-scape" series. Mostly watercolor, marker and ink pieces that incorporate my little characters. There's a small sampling of some of my digital work interspersed throughout the book as well -- where it makes sense.

OA: I really like the two shirts that you have created, What is your opinion of artists that manufacture art on magnets, laptop cover, shirts, shoes, etc? Does this lessen the quality of the original work or does it make it more lasting?
LY: Thanks! I'm glad you like the shirts -- I'll probably be adding some more designs to choose from very soon. As far as how I view artists that manufacture art on shirts, mugs, magnets, etc. . . it's really up to the artists themselves, right? If their chosen media is a shirt as opposed to a canvas, then that's cool. If it's a question about the sacredness of fine art compared to the commercialization of design. . . it's the same answer. The artist chooses whether they want to use their art as a vehicle for self expression, or a method for making money. I don't know if there's a right answer, but I will say this: There is something undeniably gratifying about creating a piece of art that is an expression of myself, and finding that other people enjoy it so much that they would like a copy for themselves.

OA: What's next for Lawrence Yang?
LY: Lots! As I said before, I'll be adding more shirt designs to my site. People have been asking for prints, so those will be added soon as well (I'm still testing out different printers to see what works the best). I'm also involved in a charity art project at Otherwise, just creating more art every day =).

Bonus Questions:
Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?LY: Ha, definitely yes for coffee. I am partial to soy lattes -- being one of those unfortunate people who cannot handle too much dairy. Don't really have a favorite spot though. As long as there's a good friend or a good book to keep me company, I'm fine.

OA: What type of music do you enjoy listening to and who are some of your favorites?
LY: Trip hop, rock, classical, jazz -- it really depends on my mood. Some favorites would be Zero 7, Ringside, Flaming lips, The Killers, Rachmaninoff, Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner.

For more information on Lawrence Yang, please visit his website or check out his blog.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

New Release Tuesday

photo by Camm Rowland

Yea Big + Kid Static - Yea Big + Kid Static Listen to: Duck, Mother F***ers (mp3)
Muscles - Guns Babes Lemonade Listen to: Chocolate Raspberry Lemon & Lime (mp3)
Yeasayer - All Hour Cymbals Listen to: 2080 (mp3)
Phosphorescent - Pride Listen to: A Picture of Our Torn Up Praise (mp3)
Holy F*** - LP Listen to: Lovely Allen (mp3)
Subtle - Yell & Ice (mini-album)
The Forms - The Forms Listen to: Knowledge in Hand (mp3)
The Besnard Lakes - Volume 1
Junk Science - Gran'dad's Nerve tonic
Castanets - In the Veins Listen to: This is the Early Game (mp3)
Realistic - Perpetual Memory Loss Listen to: The Camera Track (mp3)
Black Moth Super Rainbow - Start A People (Reissue) Listen to: Hazy Field People (mp3)
Prefuse 73 - Preparations
Saturday Looks Good To Me - Fill up the Room Listen to: Make a Plan (mp3)
J Live - Reveal the Secret Ep
Scott Walker - And Who Shall Go To The Ball?
Babyshambles - Shotter's Nation (CD/DVD) (Stream)
Ween - La Cucaracha (stream)

Meet the Robinsons
10 Questions for the Dalai Lama
Into Great Silence
Veronica Mars - The Complete Third Season

Monday, October 22, 2007

Hot Spring's Giveaway Contest

In honor of this week's interview with Giselle Webber of Hot Springs, Orange Alert is proud to announce The Hot Springs Giveaway!

Simply put your name and e-mail address in the comment section of this post or send me an e-mail, and you will be entered into the drawing to win the following:

1. Hot Springs brand new CD (not released in US) "Volcano"! Listen to: " Headrush" (mp3)
2. Other priceless Orange Alert SWAG!

The drawing will take place on Sunday, 10/28 so enter today and tell everyone you know to enter!

"Montreal’s Hot Springs are bringing something new to the table. Their first full-length album, Volcano, dishes out a combo of perfect pop that sinks its fangs in, rock that doesn't stoop to knuckle draggers, and fluff-free ballads. Volcano also throws a flurry of psychedelia into the mix and, yes – you can even dance to it.

Along with Montreal acts like The Besnard Lakes and Malajube, Hot Springs are among the most exciting bands to spring from the second wave of the Montreal music explosion, with Volcano quickly earmarked as one of the best records of 2007. "

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Orange Alert's Music Minute

The venue was small, the crowd was equally small, drunk , college aged, and predominately male. The scene was set for the extremely rare and quite odd Sea Wolf aggressive dance (I refuse to say mosh) pit. Alex Brown Church armed with his acoustic guitar, maintains his composure, but is clearly surprised by the "crowds" (maybe 25 people total) reaction. He runs through several of the tunes on the bands latest album "Leaves on the River", the highlight for me being "Middle Distance Runner", and then thanks the crowd and turns to leave the stage. The 10 dancing fools start chanting, "one more song", Alex reluctantly agrees, but on one condition... they must stop dancing! It was at that moment that I wonder if I would ever see Sea Wolf at The House Cafe again. Listen to : You are a Wolf (mp3)

Sea Wolf's label is Dangerbird Record's which also managed Darker My Love. You can download Darker My Love's self-titled debut here for free.

Normal, IL is home to husband (Hank Hofler) and wife (Jane Dowe) team, Oh Astro, who are preparing to release their new album, Champions of Wonder, on Illegal Art on November 6th. If you were forced to classify their unique style of music experimental electronic would almost fit, but their music reaches farther them most. One of the common techniques on Champions of Wonder is the manipulation of vocals by spectral software that is coded by Dowe and long-time mentor Christopher Penrose. Even the more experimental or ambient tracks contain ghostly sounds of vocals that have been stripped from their original context and placed into the pulsating electronic world of Oh Astro. The other common practice on the album is that every sound, with the exception of some of the vocals, is sampled from pre-existing recordings. The types of music sampled range from top 40 songs to indie hipster music to the obscure. In the end, it’s more about what is done with the sample than what was originally sampled. Much like label mat Girl Talk, Oh Astro also reaches into the realm of hip-hop by involving Stefan Robinson (a.k.a. Yea Big) on several tracks. Listen to: Snow Queen (mp3) and Hello Fuji Boy (mp3)

While on the subject of Illegal Art, here is their latest sampler featuring tracks from Girl Talk, Steinski and the soon-to-be-released albums by Oh Astro and Realistic. Get it here!

Manchester Orchestra and Annuals are proud to announce a 20-date co-headlining tour beginning October 26th in Atlanta, GA. As a special exclusive to the upcoming touring partnership, Manchester Orchestra and Annuals have created an exclusive, limited edition 7-inch for fans attending the shows. Only available on the upcoming tour dates, this split vinyl 7” contains each band covering each other’s tracks: Annuals cover Manchester Orchestra’s “Where Have You Been”, and Manchester Orchestra cover Annuals “Brother”, the Mp3s of which are available below. For the artwork, each band re-interpreted the other's album art, featured below.

They will be in Chicago on November 6th at The Subterranean. Listen to: Annuals covering “Where Have You Been” (mp3) and Manchester Orchestra covering “Brother” (mp3)

Also check out the new video for "Carry Around".

Great news this week for TMTS fans (which I am a huge one), here is the press release from Secretly Canadian: "We're uber pleased to announce Seattle's Throw Me The Statue to the Secretly Canadian family. Conceived and fronted by Scott Reitherman, TMTS has been delivering its wondrous concoction of cheapo sequenced synths, brass ensembles, fuzzed out beats and epic vocal melodies to various Seattle clubs for the past year. Due in February, "Moonbeams" "is both complicated and personally cohesive. Each song expands beyond the bedroom atmosphere often attributed to mellow solo artists. The opening track, 'Young Sensualists' sets the tone with a digital backyard party beat while a guitar riff and vocals dance smoothly over it." (QRO Magazine, 2007)" TMTS will touring the US with now label mate Jens Lekman next month. Listen to: About to Walk (mp3)

The Peel Back: Operation Ivy "Operation Ivy" (1991)

I have always had a more diverse taste in music, but that diversity is not always appreciated. This can really become apparent in the punk music circles. Take for example the day I "lost" my Operation Ivy tape. I used to hang out in a parking lot behind a restaurant on the banks of the Fox River. People would sit in or on my car and simply enjoy the company and the music. One day an acquaintance was sitting in the back seat looking through my tapes, and she simply could not get over the fact that I had both Frente and Operation Ivy in the same tape case. She was disgusted, and that was the last day that I say my tape, and all because I respected Frente. This album is being rereleased by Rancid Records (Epitaph) on November 6th. Listen to: Sound Sytem (mp3) and Heathly Body (mp3)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Watch List

1. Loose Lips Sink Ships - Ocean of sound... I never knew what that meant, perhaps I thought it was cliche or to abstract to be descriptive. Last night, Dekalb's Loose Lips Sink Ships made me realize, forced me against my will to feel there ocean of sound. the ever growing wave of feedback and swirling guitars. It swells, beginning with gentle droplets and amassing into a complex, at times abrasive, at other times extremely passionate blistering sound. There were two microphones on stage, but these kids did not even look at them once. In fact they clasp their over their mouths when addressing the audience. I say kids, they may have been college freshmen (may), but they play well beyond there appearance, and well beyond the size of the room , for that matter the town itself. Listen to: No. 1 (mp3)
2. The Sharks - "The Sharks started their music career not as a band, but as an Islamic terrorist group. After several hilarious and ill-fated attempts to destroy the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the change in popular attitudes toward jihadism following the unpopular attacks of September 11 forced the Sharks to re-organize as a conventional rock band." Well this statement alone makes them a perfect fit for Orange Alert. The Sharks just released their debut ep "Bridget Quits" this past week. Listen to: The Kids Know Best (mp3)
3. This is Me Smiling - Everyone smiles for different reasons, what might make you smile today may do nothing for you tomorrow. However, a rock song with a sparse little ragtime melody smack in the middle, that makes me smile today, tomorrow, and beyond! I saw this terrific Chicago band open for Sea Wolf last night, and I just had to smile. Listen to: A Better Way to Fall in Love (mp3)

1. "Reaching Aushak" by Roger Pincus - A well-written story of mistaken identity and alarm clocks that sound like toilets. This story was recently posted on Word Riot.
2. "The Slants" by Jason Jordan - Every time I read the work of Jason Jordan it seems to be written in a different voice, but there are elements that draw them all together. I found this interesting story of life in the Jordan household over at RAGAD.
3. "Movie" by Radomir Vojtech Luza - Luza is the co-poet of the week over at Poetry Super Highway.
4. "Because You Like To Listen To Stuff..." by Graham Sanford - Orange Alert is recommended by Gaper's Block!

1. Lawrence Yang "Departure" - This is a mini-portfolio from an artist who combine traditional Chinese painting and modern urban art. We will find out more about Lawrence Yang next week. - $15.99
2. "Reading Is Sexy" buttons - Sarah Utter has designed on of the coolest buttons I've seen in quite some time. This image is also available as a shirt or bumper sticker. - $1.25
3. Scintillating Publications announced this week that they are publishing three new chapbooks and here are the details.

Wayne Mason's chapbook is titled "Everyday is Labor Day," Rob Plath's is titled "Hooked to An IV Bag Full of Bile," and James O Shea's is titled "Ghost Scenes On My Mind's Eye."

Each one is $6 ppd and can be ordered directly from me via check, money order or well-hidden cash, made payable to Joseph Veronneau. His snail mail address is on the website, but here it is for easy reference:

Joseph Veronneau
21 Russell St.
Burlington VT 05401

1. Digital Slang #2 - The fine folks City Slang have release a free music sampler feature Stars, Caribou, Menomena, Malajube, and more.
2. Blanket Issue 6 release #2 - Featuring the work of Joe Penrod, Grant Barnhart, Michelle Arcila, Stephanie Lok and lots more.
3. Inbox goodies: June's Panic "Birthday Present" (mp3), The Octopus Project "Bees Bein’ Strugglin" (mp3), Realistic " The Camera Track" (mp3) Cryptacize - Cosmic Sing Along (mp3)

1. Meshach Jackson's tour video log part 1 and part 2 - Meshach gives you a sense of life on the road. More details soon on the album release.
2. I love Black Moth Super Rainbow, Dandelion Gum is a great album, but their new video for "Sun Lips"(mp3) is really quite disturbing.

Saturday Morning Cartoon

This morning while enjoy a nice bowl of Slimer Cereal, watch this new animated video from one of my new favorites, Wax Stag.

Short Road

Friday, October 19, 2007

Band of the Week

Tree Wave

Growing up in the eighties I can vividly remember learning how use a computer for the first time, and the noisy printer that we loved to set off. My second grade class took a special trip to the newly assembled computer room. It was a whole new world full of green letters and strange new symbols. Of course true love met me when I got home from school, the Atari 2600, and I would play Spider-man for hours. It was 1985 and I was already fascinated by technology. One man who has remained fascinated with the technology of his childhood is Paul Slocum of Tree Wave.

Paul creates the complex bed of sound that allows the lovely Lauren Gray's voice to soar above the waves. His tools are wonderfully outlined here, but include a Commodore 64, Atari 2600, Compaq Portable II, and an Epson LQ500. He has the ability to create custom cartridges for this equipment which allow for such an intricate rhythmic output. It was back in 2004 that this duo released their debut EP, Cabana EP+, and received a lot of positive reviews. After the release, Paul and Lauren needed time to pursue other interests, but continued to perform occasionally. However, as you will hear in the interview new material is on its way.

Recently, Paul took some time out from deconstructing Christian music and setting up his lab to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): How would you describe your sound?
Paul Slocum (PS): It's basically 8-bit + My Bloody Valentine

OA: The equipment that you use to make your sound is incredible. When did you first discover that you could use a Commodore 64 or an Atari to make music in this way? Are there plans to incorporate any other pieces of equipment along those lines?
PS: I started using the C64 and Atari with my old band in the 90's, The Science Club, a sort of Ween-like band. Although I actually even did a little music on the C64 in the 80's.

I previously used sampling a lot, and I've started using samples more in the some of the newer stuff. I use a Boss SP-303 phrase sampler when I play live.

I'm experimenting with a new concept where I'm remixing contemporary Christian music, with the intention of producing a result that is not Christian music and not anti-Christian music. It starts off with the original song, which degenerates into phased loops of the song, then I gradually mix in a wall of 8-bit tones on top of it.

Watch: Sleep (mp3)

OA: You also utilize the Atari to create videos to for your shows and for the songs themselves. How important are these videos to your overall live performance? What equipment do you bring to your live shows?
PS: When somebody goes to a live show they want to see something. Since youcan't see a that much of what I'm doing on stage, I think the video'spretty important.

I bring two Commodore 64s, an Atari, a printer, a 1987 portable PC, amixer, two Boss Heavy Metal pedals, and a sampler. And also backups ofmost of the gear

OA: With Lauren in school I've read you are performing alone, but is there any new material being recorded? When might we except to hear a new album from Tree Wave?
PS: In the next few months. I've been running a gallery for the last year and a half, and I haven't had much time. But things have stabilized and last week I set up my studio properly for the first time since I moved into the gallery space. Lauren is going to be recording new material.

OA: There has been a good amount of quality electronic music coming out Texas in recent years. What is your opinion of the current music scene in Dallas and in Texas in general?
PS: I don't keep up with the music scene that much, but the music scene in Texas seems healthy. Probably the strongest scene in Texas is its hiphop scene. Midlake is my favorite Dallas-area band. The band Mom is really nice too.

OA: The equipment that you utilize gives Tree Wave a very unique sound, but who would you say are some of your bigger musical influences?
PS: My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, Ariel Pink, Steve Reich

OA: What's next for Tree Wave?
PS: New EP in the next few months, probably followed by an online release of the Christian remix stuff I was talking about (there's probably no way I can release a CD of that stuff without getting sued).

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?PS: There's this Ethiopian coffee I like from Whole Foods, but since I'm trying to save money right now I just get the best Colombian whole-bean coffee I can get at the regular grocery store. I don't go to coffee shops, but I everybody says that Murray Street in Deep Ellum is great.

OA: What was the last great book that you read?
PS: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie.

Tree Wave will be playing tomorrow (10/20) at And/or Gallery in Dallas, TX. This performance will be a part of the opening of the Kevin Bewersdorf + Guthrie Lonergan exhibit.
For more information on Tree Wave check out their website or visit their myspace page.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Writer's Corner

Elizabeth Crane

If you were to imagine the current Chicago literary scene as a human body, Joe Meno may or may not be the face, Todd Dills may or may not be the backbone, but Elizabeth Crane is absolutely the heart. When I read her work, it feels as though she is talking directly to me, and we are in the middle of a friendly conversation. She tells me stories from her life and I understand every moment. She is honest, yet coy, playfully sincere, she can break your heart, but make you smile. She does not set out to change the world, but simply to explain it a little better.

Elizabeth Crane is the author of three short story collections, When the Messenger is Hot (2004), All This Heavenly Glory (2006), and the forthcoming You must be this Happy to Enter (2008). She also has a mini-book, Donovan's Closet, over at She teaches writing at the School of the Art Institute and the University of Chicago. She can be found darting in and out of readings across the city, and perhaps holding a few of her own. She will in fact be reading Friday, October 19, 7:00 at The Book Cellar, Saturday, October 20, 7:00 at Quimby's, 1854 W. North Ave, and Thursday October 25, 7:30 The Fixx Coffee Bar 3053 N Sheffield Ave.

Recently, Elizabeth took some time out to answer a few of my questions about here new collection and her work in general.

Orange Alert (OA): When speaking of your writing style I have heard comments to the effect, "effortless", "compelling portrayals of the everyday", "unique in its simplicity", and so on. Do the words come as easy they appear to, and how do you select your subject matter?
Elizabeth Crane (EC): Interesting question(s). That's the first time I've ever heard the word simplicity about my work! Anyway, not easy, I don't think, but certainly not hard. Sometimes a first draft will come quickly. It's just something I enjoy doing, but that said, I want to do what I do as well as I can, so I spend a lot of time on revision. In terms of selecting subject matter - sometimes story ideas come randomly, but there tend to be subjects that interest me at any given time.

OA: Have you always known you were meant to write?
EC: Meant to, I'm not sure about, but I've known I would keep writing since I was a kid.

OA: Your latest collection, You Must Be This Happy to Enter, is being published by Punk Planet Books. How did you decide to go with Punk Planet, and what can we expect from the new collection?
EC: One reason is that they pursued me, and made me feel really good about it. Another is that I knew Joe Meno, and how well he'd done there, and how happy he was with the experience.

OA: What is your opinion of the current literary scene in Chicago?
EC: I think it's great and I'm really glad to see so much going on, and so many people going to things!

OA: I read an interview with Joe Meno, and he talked about the relationship between book sales and book tours. Do you see any connection between readings and book sales?
EC: The folks at Punk Planet seem to believe it - I'm not sure I have a definite answer for that. Books get sold, for sure, but it helps to get people to come out - that can be the tricky part, and tat varies from city to city.

OA: How do you select the pieces that you read, and do you view them in a different light when reading them to an audience?
EC: Well, I try to mix it up when I read around Chicago, because sometimes I feel like I've read everything in this town and everyone's heard it already. On tours, I often read stories that I've read in other cities that I know will go over well. But also - some of my denser stuff is hard to read out loud, so I don't read those too often at all. Mostly, I aim for funny, at readings.

OA: Has being a teacher of the written word affected the way you approach your personal writing?
EC: Hee - I write less! No, that's not really true, the only way it's changed is that I do have less time to do it at my leisure, I really have to find pockets of time, and I'd prefer to have a regular schedule.

OA: What's next for Elizabeth Crane?
EC: Wealth. Great heaping piles of money. Besides the next book, there's been a play adaptation and a short film made from my stories, so I'd love to see a feature or a series.

Bonus Questions:
OA: After reading "Privacy & Coffee", I can assume you are a coffee drinker, but what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
EC: I meet students at the Alliance Bakery often. I do drink coffee, mostly at home, loaded up with hazelnut cream.

OA: What type of music do your enjoy and who are some of your favorite musicians?
EC: Different stuff. It's almost the season for Sufjan Stevens Christmas record! But you know, I might also listen to Gnarls Barkley or the Flaming Lips or Shawn Colvin. My husband turns me on to cool stuff, but I'm still a little VH1 inside.

For more information on Elizabeth Crane you can visit her website or check out her blog. To preorder your copy of You Must This Happy to Enter go here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Artist of the Week

Nick Volkert

On the surface, the world of abstract art may seem quite different than the world of illustration. Where one is completely about the exploration of colors, explosions, blurring of lines and structures, the other is about reoccurring characters, typically clean lines and traditional social commentary. However, the art form both carries forward the concept of freedom. In either genre the artist is free to create the universe that she/or is living. Whether that universe is randomly full of color or straight black and white, the artist guides the tempo, design, and ultimately the outcome.

One artist who has transitioned nicely into the realm of the abstract is Northern Illinois University graduate Nick Volkert. When Nick began the graduate program at NIU he was mainly focused on the school paper, and developing his numerous cartoon ideas. However, in 2005 Nick began to let the paint take over really explore different textures that he could create. Since graduating he has focused on this new found world, while also freelancing in the community. He is also the founder and operator of a website, Student Fine Art, that also the provides an outlet for the art community at NIU. He now prepares to share his personal creations with the public. On November 14th at The House Cafe in Dekalb, IL, Nick will unveal his current series of paintings, and this will be an event not to be missed.

Recently, Nick took some time out to answer a few of our questions.

Orange Alert (OA): How would you describe your style of painting?
Nick Volkert (NV): Abstraction that doesn't take itself too seriously. It's as deep as you want it to be, but is accessible to anyone. I don't like to be filed away into any of the "ists or isms", but the way I paint is very aggressive and physical. If I amount to anything I'll let someone else come up with a cool name for it.

OA: While at NIU you developed your fascination with and ability to create abstract painting, what else did you take away from your time at NIU?
NV: Self sufficiency. Being filed away at the topmost farthest corner of the NIU art annex you have to take things in your own hands. It was also nice too because I'd have my solitude, and be able to crank some crazy metal and not have to worry about making my art neighbors mad. I also gained a level of defiance, I was told "no" a lot, and said I was somehow going about my work the wrong way. So through that I grew my artistic identity. No one's going to tell me no, and I'm going to paint what I want to paint. I got into abstract after some late night searches on the web; the voodoo land where the academics say you're not supposed to find anything artistically profound. I found an artist named Karen Jacobs who does these large fantastic abstracts. I began working similarly in very small sizes, and eventually my works grew in scale. After a night of crappy critiques, I painted, was venting some frustration, and stumbled upon the splatter technique I use; mixing tube acrylic with gesso, and then eventually hardware store grade latex house paint. The work I was doing previously was very illustration looking; rendering my work almost in a photoshop airbrush tool manner. I think the abstracts were the equivalent of taking those paintings and throwing them out the window. It was liberating. I was able to focus more on color. I was also a good stress reliever. Ha.

OA: Next month you have exhibit opening at the House Cafe in Dekalb. What can we expect to see at this opening?
NV: Being in limbo right now I really can't make guarantees. I will say that I put on a good show. Admittedly I don't have the luxury of time on my side, but I hope to have a little bit more work on display than a modest showing. Set your expectations low, and you'll always be surprised, I say. Ha.

OA: I really enjoy your comic "Gone Clean Wholesome Fun". What are you plans for this comic? Is there a collection in the works?

NV: Right now it's in the back of my mind and is definitely going to make a comeback. No collections in the works yet. I came to terms with the fact I that I have multiple artistic identities, and the comic is something that I just need to do to keep my sanity. I don't know if a physical collection will be around anytime soon, like I said, but I'm hoping to launch a website for the comic as soon as I get things to a point where I feel comfortable sharing it with the world again. There's so much more I can do with Scooter the two legged cat.

OA: Who are some of your biggest influence artistically?
NV: I love anything and everything comic books. Those are what originally brought me to the dance. I really wanted to be the next Jim Lee, or Dan Silvestri. I plan to get back to that. Right now I always check to see what James Jean is doing, I love his compositions, his ideas, and his use of extremely bizarre colors. If any other artist was given the ingredients he has, they'd definitely drop the ball, but he always manages to knock it out of the park, just awesome stuff. I also like looking at graffiti. I take trains a lot now, and used to drive by trains a lot on the way to school. I always have the rust vs. minty 1950's green color composition in my mind. The idea of the boxcar is great too. Once they exceed their use they are sent away in a yard somewhere, to become some graffiti artist's canvas. Just the odd but wonderful life for a railroad car.

OA: What's next for Nick Volkert?
NV: I want to get back to illustration really bad, and my comics. I have a comic book idea I've been knocking around for years that I'm willing to spend enough time on to really make it something. So, revisiting a lot of old ideas. I'm also learning web and flash, so I'm sure a flash animation authored by me will be coming around soon. Continuing to work though, in any form is a must for me. Finding time and getting ideas for new work while living a day to day life is like a fight, and I'm a fighter. I'm not going down for the count anytime soon.

Bonus Questions:
OA: Coffee? If yes what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
NV: I've yet to find what's so great about coffee. I like cold drinks, so I'm a tea drinker. Fresh brewed tea, is the way to go. Mountain Dew is like my heroin. There's definitely an addictive chemical in that garbage.

OA: Do you listen to music while you painting? Who are some of your> favorites while painting and in general?
NV: Music definitely inspired a lot of my work. I rocked a lot of Nonpoint, Hurt, Black Crowes, Shinedown, and Death from Above 1979. I wish I could paint the sounds I hear instead of reacting to it. In general I like highs and lows, heavy parts and pretty parts. My taste in music tends to be very heavy with strong melody. I like the heavy rock bands that have singers that actually sing and do the occasional Cookie Monster voice. It's got to move you man, it's got to move you. I'm in debt to all the music that's inspired me.

For more information on Nick Volkert, please visit his website.